Holly – Endurance – Wisdomkeeper of Evergreens (King of Wands)
Genus: Ilex – Family: Aquifoliaceae
Holly brings life and creativity during difficult and challenging times. As an evergreen, holly reminds us of our inner strength and endurance so we may overcome any obstacle in our path.
The Celtic battle of the Holly King versus the Oak King was seen as a metaphor for the ongoing cycle between winter/darkness and summer/light. The evergreen holly symbolizes the undying nature of life during the short days of winter, while the deciduous oak, symbolizes the fullness of life during the long days of summer. When the oak drops its leaves in fall, the evergreen leaves of holly remain as symbols of hope for the renewal of spring.
The Druids wore holly in their hair to ward off evil spirits.
English Ivy was seen as the Queen to the Holly King. During the Winter Solstice girls dressed in ivy and boys in holly to symbolize how the forces of nature came together to birth new life in spring.
Holly was the sacred plant of Saturn (Roman god of harvest). Sprigs of holly were given during the festival of Saturnalia in December. As Christianity spread throughout Europe holly became a traditional Christmas decoration referred to by the name “Christ’s Thorn.” The holly was now associated with Jesus and the ivy with his mother the Virgin Mary.
The British folk Christmas carol The Holly and the Ivy was written in the 1800’s. It weaves the stories of nature and Christianity together.
In popular culture, Harry Potter’s wand is made of holly to help him on his spiritual quest. Holly is a spirit that brings luck, prosperity and protection.
The genus name Ilex was originally the Latin name for evergreen oak, Quercus ilex, also known as holm (holly) oak. This interrelationship of holly and oak was based on the similar shape of their leaves and the fact that they share the same habitat. Unlike evergreen oaks, holly trees produce white blossoms in summer and red berries in winter. Holly is dioecious, meaning there are male and female trees. Both produce white blossoms but only the female tree produces the iconic red berries. The contrast of the red berries against the waxy evergreen leaves became symbols of endurance. European holly, Ilex aquifoliumis a rugged species native to western and southern Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia.
Message: Holly reminds us to believe in ourselves and to connect with our inner strength as we move through difficult times in our life. By knowing that everything eventually comes full-circle we can see the potential that lies ahead. This is a time of positive action and endurance that will actually help us achieve a long-term goal.
Challenge: Being stuck in rut or seeking “quick fixes” that deplete our resources.